A shrewd and stylish investment

Timeshare used to be bad news. It was what happened to unwary people on holiday in half-built Spanish resorts. Sharkish touts would promise couples free gifts (often an imitation brass carriage clock) or a ride in the company's speedboat and, in exchange, holidaymakers agreed to attend a "presentation" which would sometimes last several hours. Effectively detained against their will, kept in a darkened room and shown slides and "artists' impressions" of villas and apartments in mind-numbing profusion, many signed on the dotted line in order to secure their release. The price of freedom was often a lifetime of holidays in the Canary Islands.

Timeshare used to be bad news. It was what happened to unwary people on holiday in half-built Spanish resorts. Sharkish touts would promise couples free gifts (often an imitation brass carriage clock) or a ride in the company's speedboat and, in exchange, holidaymakers agreed to attend a "presentation" which would sometimes last several hours. Effectively detained against their will, kept in a darkened room and shown slides and "artists' impressions" of villas and apartments in mind-numbing profusion, many signed on the dotted line in order to secure their release. The price of freedom was often a lifetime of holidays in the Canary Islands.

Now timeshare has partly cleaned up its act and the business, which boomed in the mid-Nineties, continues to grow. The UK market, which is expanding faster than any other in Europe, has doubled over the past 10 years. The number of Britons who took timeshare holidays last year was 1,250,000 - more than went skiing or took a cruise. One of the reasons is that European legislation has given the consumer greater protection. Even Spain, which was dragging its feet on the issue, has now signed up to laws which give potential timeshare purchasers a cooling-off period of 10 days when no deposit may be taken and during which there is no penalty for a change of mind - an important point when 50 per cent of clients have second thoughts and cancel.

What is surprising is that timeshare has moved up-market. One of the world's largest timeshare exchange organisations, RCI, says the typical British timesharer is a home owner aged between 45 and 64, "well educated", with two cars and no children at home, who takes at least two holidays and two short breaks every year. The most satisfied customers among that group, according to Sandy Grey of the Timeshare Consumers' Association, are people who have bought in the secondary market - that is, not at top prices straight from the developer - and who have shopped around for properties in desirable locations.

The location of the timeshare is an important guide to its bankability in the exchange market. Few owners want to spend the rest of their holiday-making lives returning to the same place and a major incentive to buyers is the possibility of swapping their weeks for holidays in a choice of around 3,400 resorts spread across 90 countries worldwide. And this need not be an exchange of one poolside apartment for another - the timeshare bank includes weeks in log cabins in Alaska, in thatched villas in Kenya, in London lofts, Manhattan apartments, on a kibbutz in Israel and, in a recent addition to the timeshare world, on narrowboats on waterways from Nottingham to Bath.

The cost of using an exchange scheme may be £100 or so for each transaction but most customers seem happy to pay that, knowing that they can expect holiday accommodation of a very high standard. Many complexes have their own health clubs, restaurants and tennis courts with links to golf courses and other sports facilities.

Stepping into this non-shady timeshare arena are some blue-chip companies such as Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Thomas Cook and Disney, which have all opened timeshare operations in Europe.

So where have the old timeshare touts gone? Selling ice-cream or hiring clapped-out motorcycles to careless tourists? No, their new game, which looks suspiciously like the old one, is signing up members to "holiday clubs" with a promise that for a few thousand pounds deposit, good-quality accommodation can be guaranteed for years to come. Mostly, the deal turns out to feature very low-season holidays and sometimes there is no holiday at all. So, if you are approached by a man brandishing a scratchcard and you "win" a holiday or a luxury gift, turn and walk away. There's no such thing as a free carriage clock.

Top 10 Timeshare Destinations1 Spain/Canaries2 USA3 Portugal4 UK5 Malta6 Mexico7 Canada8 Italy9 South Africa10 India

Source RCI Europe

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect